Interview with Simone Naicker, creator of My Tiara is My Hard Hat #SimoneSays
Content creator and young leader, Simone Naicker is a rising star within the mining industry. Extending her reach as a public speaker, advocate for women in mining, and the author behind #simonesays. Her brand 'My Tiara is a Hard Hat' was established in 2018 intending to make working in the mining industry as glamourous and heralded as it would be to win a beauty pageant.
What made you choose the mining industry?
It is beautiful that is feels the mining industry chose me. When I was in high school, I excelled at Maths and Science and had a strong love of people. Little did I know that it would be my love for people that would make me choose to work in this industry. I began my career in the mining industry when my studies were fortunately funded by Exxaro Resources, a South African mining company. Now, having been in the industry for 5 years, I can honestly say that working in mining is incredible and something I am happy to have chosen.
What drew you to a career in the traditionally male-dominated mining sector?
My values guide me, and I have always believed that if we give respect, we will receive it. I have found my power in unleashing the female and not trying to replicate the male. It is easy to feel intimidated by the environment and feel that you need to conform or “be more man-like”. That is the wrong approach to working in a male-dominated sector. What is addictive and continues to draw me in is how I can apply myself, as a woman, with differing skills and strengths, to a masculine environment and achieve great, often unheard-of results.
Are there any challenges you faced within the industry as a young professional?
As a young professional in the mining industry the challenge you face on site is sometimes change management. The industry is full of experts who have done fantastic work but have also become a little closed off to innovation. It is our role as young professionals to not be discouraged but to take on this challenge and go against the status quo. If we prove value in a tangible way and take the time to understand why our seniors may be cautious toward implementation, we will find a healthy balance and achieve experience guided innovation.
What does International Women's Day mean to you?
International Women’s Day is an opportunity to recognise the global community of women who are making strides and trailblazing. It makes me feel like I am part of something bigger than just myself. I am proud on this day of the strides we have made and continue to make in the mining sector. As much as we are from different parts of the world, there is something relatable and meaningful about being a woman in mining – we have a lot in common.
How do you support women's empowerment and gender equality as an influencer within the mining industry?
As a LinkedIn and Mining Industry Influencer I support women empowerment through sharing my story bravely and vulnerably. My content centres around tips and tricks to resolve typical issues that I have experienced in the workplace. I am an advocate for the power of our voices. I have shared my views at several Diversity and Inclusion conferences and have joined the Women in Mining South Africa Mentorship Program for 2022.
In your own words, how can the sector work towards attracting the best young - especially female - talent?
The mining sector will be able to attract the best young female talent by creating top class graduate programs. As a young graduate, I would choose a company that offers a structured, well supported program that will develop both my technical and soft skills. I would choose a company with proven examples of women in managerial roles as it is encouraging that I too will be able to acquire such a position with hard work and dedication.
Any advice for those who are planning to start a career within the mining industry?
My advice for those planning to start a career in the mining industry is to be humble. Yes, you may have tertiary education and you may have a full house of distinctions and be an academic prodigy, however when you step on a mine for the first time, put all that knowledge into your back pocket and begin learning as though you know nothing. Absorb as much practical information as possible from the people running the mines, not those who have offices. My most valuable time spent on the mine was working shifts with our operations team, unblocking equipment, and literally washing magnetite off our processing plant floors. Use the opportunity to engage fully with the operations teams as that will stand you in good stead.
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